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March 2, 2001


UMBC's Humanities Forum and the Friends of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery present UMBC mathematics professor Manil Suri, who will read from and discuss The Death of Vishnu, his critically acclaimed first novel. The free event, "Balancing Mythology with Mathematics: A Reading from The Death of Vishnu," will be held at 4 p.m. on April 4 in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery; a reception will follow. For more information call (410) 455-6798. A campus map is available at

Suri's novel was published by W.W. Norton & Company in January 2001 to positive reviews. Library Journal called it a "radiant first novel," Booklist called it a "tenderly comic, wryly metaphysical, and hugely entertaining tale," and Publishers Weekly concluded that "by turns charming and funny, searing and poignant, dramatic and farcical, this fluid novel is an irresistible blend of realism, mysticism and religious metaphor, a parable of the universal conditions of human life." The Washington Post compared reading the novel to eating a mango, calling it "ambrosial" and "sweet scented." The Baltimore Sun praised Suri as "a fiction writer of great imagination and beauty." Suri is currently on a national book tour, after having completed a series of readings in India.

A brief summary of The Death of Vishnu (along with more information on Suri, his novel and his work) appears on "Vishnu is dying. He lies on the landing of the staircase where he lives while his neighbors, the Pathaks and the Asranis, argue over who will pay for an ambulance. Spiraling up through the floors of the apartment building, we are pulled into the dramas of the residents' lives: Mr. Jalal's obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja's longing for the wife he has lost; the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who imagines herself the heroine of a Hindi movie. Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious divisions of contemporary India, and Vishnu's ascent of the staircase parallels the soul's progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, we wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants, but of the entire universe.

A seriously engaged scholar in his discipline, Suri has taught at UMBC since 1983. Suri's fiction was largely unknown, even to UMBC faculty, until the publication of an excerpt from The Death of Vishnu, entitled "The Seven Circles," appeared in the February 14, 2000 issue of the New Yorker. This was followed by an April 9, 2000 piece in the New York Times for its "My Suburb" series.

Posted by dwinds1 at March 2, 2001 12:00 AM